Thought for the Day – 21 October – The Memorial of Blessed Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi (1937-1993) Priest, Martyr of the Mafia
Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi was killed in Palermo on 15 September 1993, his 56th birthday. A courageous defender of the poor in the Sicilian capital’s inner city neighbourhood of Brancaccio, Blessed Father Puglisi worked tirelessly to convince young people that there was a better life than organised crime. He was extremely outspoken about the Mafia and preached against collusion, intimidation and omerta–the code of silence. As the BBC reported, “He was famous for a rhetorical question, which he used as a catch phrase in order to encourage Sicilians to stand up and fight organised crime – ‘And what if somebody did something?’” Despite numerous threats against him, he continued to teach the word of Christ and support men, women, and children in need with the hopes that they would peacefully join his anti-Mafia mission.
Once on trial, his killers revealed that they were haunted by Father Pino’s smile. They recalled that when they gunned him down in front of his home and the church where he preached, he said, while looking them in the eyes, “I’ve been expecting you.” Six men are currently serving life sentences for his murder.
Blessed Father Puglisi was declared a Martyr by Pope Benedict XVI and was Beatified on 25 May 2013, when more than 50,000 people attended the ceremony.
When Pope Francis visited Palermo on the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Blessed Pino Puglisi, he honoured this priest shot at point-blank range by the Mafia. Pope Francis insisted that true happiness and a real change in Sicilian society will come only when people love and care for one another rather than trying to grab as much money and power as they can.
“Having always leads to wanting. I have something and immediately want another and another without end. The more you have the more you want . It’s a horrible addiction,” Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass in Palermo.
“On the other hand, one who loves finds himself and discovers how beautiful it is to help others has joy on the inside and a smile on the outside, just like Father Pino” The pope’s visit to Sicily ended with an outdoor meeting with tens of thousands of teenagers and young adults in a Palermo square.
He urged them to dream and to love one another and to fight every form of corruption that flows from or builds up the Mafia.
“No to the Mafia mentality, to illegality, to the logic of crime, which are corrosive poisons for human dignity,” the pope said. “No to every form of violence. Those who use violence are not human. And the youngest of you, remember and promise me none of you will be bullies.”
“Promise me – No violence. No bullying,” he said. “No to resignation. Everything can change if people open their hearts and stand firm in hope.”